Renewable Energy Industry Reacts to State of the Union

Proponents of the renewable energy industry quickly reacted to U.S. President George Bush’s recent State of the Union Address, specifically those portions of his plans addressing solar and wind energy, cutting U.S. gas consumption 20 percent by 2017, raising the fuel standard for renewable fuels, and increasing battery research for hybrid cars.

“These technologies will help us be better stewards of the environment, and they will help us to confront the serious challenge of global climate change,” said President Bush. Yet amid slight praise for broaching the topic of how to address climate change through the use of renewable energies, increased R&D for ethanol, and an RFS, many renewable energy advocates agree: it’s not enough. Scott Sklar, President, The Stella Group, Ltd.: “While the President actually mentioned the word “climate change” in his State of the Union speech, the environmental groups got none of what they directly wanted towards establishing some sort of mandatory emissions caps. … As was seen from the President’s subdued delivery, focus on Iraq, and acknowledgments on the shift of power to a divided government — all these energy proposals will be sifted, added to and modified by the Democratic Leadership in the House and Senate. The speech signifies the formal start of this process, and now the political theater and process begins.” Bill Prindle, Acting Executive Director, American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy: “The President sets extremely ambitious goals for alternative fuels, while making tepid promises on fuel economy. While we need new clean fuels, energy efficiency is the first fuel in the race for energy security. Congress should set a stronger CAFE standard that would save at least 12 billion gallons of gasoline in 2017 and 50 billion in 2030.” Chris Flavin, President, Worldwatch Institute: “Beyond biofuels, the array of other promising renewable energy sources — including solar energy, wind power, and geothermal energy — received only a mention in the president’s speech, and is generally ignored in his detailed energy plan. It will therefore fall to Congress to develop the kind of solid, far-reaching national commitment to renewable resources and efficiency that will be needed to fuel a strong domestic economy and lower the consumption of oil and other fossil fuels.” Ken Bossong, Coordinator, The Sustainable Energy Network: “Curbing gasoline use by 20 percent over the next decade is a positive goal but it is not enough. It is time to pull out all of the stops and launch an intensive national effort to significantly reduce total energy use and greatly increase the share of energy coming from renewable sources – with a goal of at least 25 percent by 2025. This would include at least a near-term doubling, if not tripling, of federal tax incentives as well as federal funding of research, development, and deployment of the full spectrum of energy efficient and renewable energy technologies — with heavy emphasis on actual deployment.” Brent Erickson, Executive Vice President, Biotechnology Industry Organization: “By proposing a new renewable energy standard that will require fuel blenders to use up to 35 billion gallons of renewable fuel by 2017, the President is sending a dramatically positive signal to the investment community, to farmers, to biotech companies and to gasoline refiners that our government will work with the private sector to make the biofuels sector a major contributor to our energy independence. Biotechnology is the key enabling technology that can help the United States significantly reduce its use of foreign petroleum. America could soon be producing a significant portion of its transportation fuel needs from crops and crop residues with the help of improved crop yields from agricultural biotechnology, increased ethanol production efficiency from industrial biotechnology, and the production of cellulosic biomass ethanol.” Brian Jennings, Executive Vice President, American Coalition for Ethanol: “President Bush’s call to increase the use of renewable and alternative fuels, including ethanol, to 35 billion gallons by 2017 sends a very powerful signal that an ambitious yet attainable Renewable Fuels Standard goal is the ideal strategy to strengthen energy security and independence in the U.S. An RFS level of 35 billion gallons by 2017 is consistent with ACE’s call for an RFS of 60 billion gallons by 2030, and we are pleased that this and other important aspects of ACE’s legislative plan have already been included in S. 23, the Biofuels Security Act introduced in the 110th Congress by Senators Harkin and Lugar.” Carol Werner, Executive Director, Environmental and Energy Study Institute: “While EESI commends the setting of such an aggressive goal which can help dramatically stimulate the development of new technologies and feedstocks for the production of renewable fuels (biofuels), we do have concerns about the President’s proposal to broaden the Renewable Fuel Standard enacted by Congress to an Alternative Fuels Standard that would also encompass a broad range of other fuels including methanol, butanol, hydrogen and other alternative fuels — which may be derived from fossil energy, including coal, natural gas and other fossil fuels. The President referenced the need to confront climate change as well as address oil imports and national security. But the additional fuels the President suggested including could well increase the level of greenhouse gas emissions, rather than reduce them.” Scott Faber, Farm Policy Campaign Director, Environmental Defense: “Expanding the production of ethanol will help boost the profitability of our farmers and reduce our dependence on foreign sources of energy. To ensure that ethanol feed stocks are grown in ways that meet our environmental challenges, Congress should double funding for voluntary USDA conservation programs when Congress renews farm and food policies this year. … Renewal of farm and food policies creates an opportunity to dramatically increase renewable energy development on our farms, ranches, and forest lands. The next Farm Bill should expand USDA grants and loan guarantees to develop renewable energy, and should for the first time link USDA investments in renewable energy to an index of environmental benefits.”
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